Through the Uprights: Mike Lavieri 10/18

Mike Lavieri

By Mike Lavieri PrepsKC columnist
Posted: October 18, 2018 - 7:58 AM

We’ve hit the halfway point of the high school football season in Kansas when the playoffs are included.

Shawnee Mission East coach Justin Hoover knows this week is Week 8 and he said after Friday’s loss to Free State, the mindset for the Lancers moving forward is they don’t lose from here on out.

The stakes are high and they will only get bigger as each week passes by. Teams are playing for playoff positioning this week.

But I’m not here to talk about teams. I’m here to talk about individuals.

At the end of the season, one player in the metro will be awarded with the Thomas A. Simone Award, which is given to the most outstanding high school football player.  

Last year, the award went to Park Hill wide receiver Ronnie Bell. The year before, it went to Staley running back Julian Ross. The year before that? Fort Osage quarterback Skylar Thompson, who is the starter at Kansas State. Current Missouri quarterback Drew Lock won it in 2014.

I think you’re getting a clear picture: This award is usually won by a Missouri player – 24 of the 35 winners hail from Missouri, including Dalvin Warmack, who became the first two-time winner of the award going back-to-back in 2012 and 2013.

The last player from Kansas to win the award was Gardner-Edgerton’s Bubba Starling, who passed up an opportunity to play at Nebraska to pursue professional baseball. What a Kansas school can claim is the most winners – that belongs to Olathe North’s six, including 14-year pro Darren Sproles, who along with two other Eagles went back-to-back-to-back.

So with that, we’ll look at a few Kansas players who could try to unearth Missouri’s dominance.

Graham Mertz, Blue Valley North, senior quarterback
After sitting out his freshman and sophomore years behind Bishop Miege’s Carter Putz, Graham Mertz burst onto the scene last year after transferring to Blue Valley North and leading the Mustangs to their first state title in program history.

While Mertz’s numbers probably aren’t going surpass last year’s 3,684 yards passing or 45 touchdowns, he’s still putting up great numbers this year. He currently has 1,701 yards passing and 21 touchdowns.

Mertz was a finalist last year and I had him as my favorite to win it this year before the season started. There’s still plenty of season left for Mertz to make his case.

Keenan Garber, Free State, senior wide receiver
Keenan Garber is on a different planet. Through seven games, Garber has 17 touchdowns on 31 touches this season. He’s caught 26 passes for 653 yards and 14 scores, while adding 51 yards and three scores rushing on five attempts.

I don’t know what’s more shocking: Some of the catches he makes or when he doesn’t score a touchdown on a given touch. He’s putting up video game numbers and he plays both sides of the ball.

There’s only one person who I think is having a better season than Garber, which is why Garber gets my vote for the Otis Taylor Award, which goes to the most outstanding wide receiver.

Tyron"Tank" Young, St. Thomas Aquinas, sophomore running back
If Garber is on a different planet, then Tank Young is in a different universe. Through seven games, Young is already the St. Thomas Aquinas single-season rushing leader with 1,459 yards, surpassing teammate Cameron Jackson, who set the mark last year.

What Young is doing week in and week out against the Eastern Kansas League is astonishing. Last week against, Bishop Miege he racked up 312 yards and three touchdowns, to bring his season total to 19 scores on the year.

The only hurdle standing in Young’s way is no sophomore has ever won the award.

As of the middle of October, Young has my vote.